Soapbox: Titanic issues

There’s intelligent analogies, and then there’s just snarky.

IMHO, the rhetorical question by Jada Yuan in the New Yorker‘s Daily Intel column turns a tragic event into a stupid comment.

Yuan twists remarks by New York Times publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr. that the print industry is comparable to the cruise ship industry — in the persona of the H.M.S Titanic — that eventually suffered because of the effect the airplane would one day have on the travel industry.

So when Yuan writes, “Okay, so let us get this straight. The publisher of the New York Times is saying that getting into print journalism is like getting on the Titanic?,” that mispresents the idea he’s trying to get across, in my interpretation, and tries to paint him in an unsympathetic and even stupid light.

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Sorry, I’ve been lax

Do the math, buddy

Or “Forever is a long, long time.”

During the recent panel discussion on “Big Ideas and New Opportunities for 2010 and Beyond,” sponsored by FolioMag.com, David Nussbaum, CEO of enthusiast magazine and book publisher F+W Media, said “The magazine business, particularly if you’re dominated by print advertising, is going to continue to be a no-growth to a declining business—probably forever.”

Forever? Well that seems like a good news/bad news situation: The problem will get worse, but at least it’ll still be there. Better than not being there, I guess.

I recall reading one of the philosophical/physics books which discussed a driver who was cited for failing to come to a full stop at a stop sign. The book described how you can never actually come to a full stop since theoretically you’re always moving half-way between where you are and where you’re going.

[crickets]

It sounded deeper at the time.

Have a holly-jolly layoff

"Here's to your new job. Ho-ho-ho."

And in case you didn’t hear, you’re fired.

I’m sure Time workers won’t be the only ones.

According to this item in the NY Post,

Time Inc. axed about 600 people last year, and is down to about 9,000 employees worldwide.

The guessing game inside the company says that this round of cuts will not be as deep as a year ago.

But, as one insider said, “It changes week to week and nothing is final yet.”

All I know is our holiday parties have been shrinking from year to year. And as for a bonus? Some people take this for granted, but the companies for whom I’ve toiled have never given them in all the years I’ve been working.

400 suckers born every day

To the 400 new suckers, I mean subscribers who signed up for ESPN the Magazine after seeing the “Body Issue”: you do realize it’s basically a one-shot gimmick, don’t you? That the bi-weekly publication is usually never like this? I mean, they don’t even have a swimsuit issue. Heck, even Inside Sports had a swimsuit issue back in the day.

Even magazines that one would never expect to employ such a marketing strategy do it. I suspect this for a combination of sales grab and a poke at those who do. I’m sure there’s a philosophical or economic/marketing term for disparaging a practice while at the same time using it, but I must have been out from school that day.

Where’s the love?

From time to time I interview journalists for various stories and/or blog entries. They are overwhelmingly generous — on face. I have commented “Thanks for you’re time, but I curious why you would even consider talking to a small fry like me.” And they usually answer that in this day and age, with the book industry going slowly down the slopes like Wile E. Coyote, they have to do more for themselves rather than rely on the publisher’s publicity staff. That’s why you have this explosion of blogs and web sites. I have to give them props, though; for those to whom book writing is not a full time occupation, all this comes on top of their day jobs.

But I digress.

On occasion I might have an idea I think might be appropriate for Mr./Ms. Writer’s employers and have asked to whom I should address such a query. Suddenly these people who were so forthcoming with their time to promote their own work seem to have precious little when it comes to a modest request. And believe me, when I contact these writers about their projects I have no agenda in mind, no quid pro quo. Just seems like a common courtesy to me. I’m not asking for an introduction or letter of recommendation, just an email or phone number. Is the industry that shaky that we’re afraid to help each other out? Afraid that such aid might one day come back to bite us when the person we assist takes our job away? It almost sounds like a veteran athlete reluctant to help a rookie, because the newcomer will eventually take his spot at some time.

Anyway, pardon my venting. But then, that was the whole purpose of this blog.

WaPo redo: WTF?

I love Tony Kornheiser. I don’t know him, but I love him. I’ve been reading his work going back maybe 25 years, when he was a columnist for the Washington Post when it was a good newsPAPER. When he started Pardon the Interruption, I was able to put a face and a voice to the name and enjoyed him even more, especially when I discovered his eponymous radio show on iTunes. His sarcasm and wit… it was like looking in the mirror (though I am younger and have more hair).

Like certain kinds of food, he’s not to everyone’s taste. He can be very cranky and whiny, but I always admired his honesty; he calls ’em like he sees ’em. And lately he’s been calling out the Washington Post, his former employer who bought him out in what seems to my uneducated mind as a relatively bitter breakup. But I don’t think it’s a case of sour grapes when he and his goes off about the new design of the print edition, which he and his colleagues compare to The Wall Street Journal, and with good reason. Kornheiser educates his listeners with a primer on the newspaper biz and the necessary evil of balancing editorial content with advertising, which, after all is what generates the major revenue. The gang also opines that in a few years there won’t even be a print edition, that all attention is being paid to the on-line version.

You can hear the show via podcast on his website (which doesn’t really stink). It’s been one of the major topics on the show — ostensibly a sports program since it’s on the ESPN affiliate in DC — for the past few days.

Here are a few stories about the Post‘s redesign, from Journerdism.com, poynter.org, Editor & Publisher, and MediaBistro.com. The consensus is that maybe this wasn’t such a good idea.

Meanwhile, WaPo publisher Katharine Weymouth is advising calm in this letter to readers, which also includes a PDF guide to the redesign, which you can read here.

By the way, if any of my Facebook friends are friends of Mr. Tony’s, please pass along my admiration and good wishes and tell him I’d love to interview him some time.

  • A reluctant welcome

    It’s no secret what’s going on the field of print journalism. It’s going into the crapper. I wonder if Mr. Internet realized this would happen when he invented the World Wide Web. Regardless, the situation is here and we’re stuck with it. The purpose of this blog is to blow off a little steam, and I invite my fellow ink-stained wretches to join in with their own tales of woe or triumph. Maybe this will turn into a nice little support network. Questions? Suggestions? E-mail me at worriedjournalist(at) gmail(dot)com.
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